Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The lunch meeting

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash
Catherine sipped her coffee as she watched the younger woman enter the restaurant. She definitely was his type - younger, long dark hair, fair skin, stylish. He did enjoy his arm candy. Catherine empathized with the woman. She had no idea what she had gotten herself into. At last the woman reached the table. "Ms Barton?" she asked. Catherine heard the small quake in her voice. Poor girl was nervous.

Catherine gave her a cool smile. "Join me, please. Nicole, right? And do call me Catherine. After all, you are sleeping with my husband. We're past formalities."
Nicole paled. Catherine had to give her some credit, though. She still sat down at the table. So many young women would flee, or try to deny it, or make excuses. Nicole just sat, silently, waiting for Catherine to make the next move.

"Let's order, shall we? My treat, of course. Although I suppose we could say it's Frank's treat since it's his company funding our bank account." Catherine chuckled to herself, enjoying this too much. Nicole was still not sure what was going on, and remained silent.

Catherine snapped her menu shut, startling Nicole. She laid her menu to the side and nodded at the waiter, hovering at a discreet distance. "Order what you wish, dear. I won't tell Frank if it doesn't fit in The Plan. I remember his expectations all too well. Then, we should get to know each other."

After placing their orders, Nicole finally gathered some courage. "Why am I here?"

"I just told you, we should get to know each other. It's not your fault I married a cheating bastard," Catherine said, nonchalantly.

"But I'm your husband's mistress."

"So?" Catherine paused to thank the waiter, who was placing their food on the table. "Listen, Nicole. I like you. You are polite, you have backbone to show up at my invitation and even more to actually sit and eat with me. Even better, you are keeping Frank happy. I realized a long time ago that marrying him was a mistake. You see, I used to be in your shoes."

Nicole was still processing this information. Catherine was okay with this? "I'm sorry, I'm a bit confused. What do you mean?"

Again Catherine laughed to herself. "You actually remind me of myself when I first met Frank. There was no current Mrs. Anderson at the time, though. He'd been briefly married but divorced a year before we met. And yes, I checked to make sure. Public records are easy to search." She paused to sip her water. "I let him sweep me off my feet. He was so charming, so attentive. So preoccupied with image, but charming me into going along with his demands. Eat the correct foods, wear the correct clothes, stay the correct weight. The jewelry he gave me as gifts were subtle demands to wear the correct jewels, a walking billboard of his net worth. I was so caught up in the fantasy that I married him."

"But you kept your last name?" interrupted Nicole. "I didn't know who you were when I got your invitation. I thought this was an interview."

"In a way, it is," said Catherine. "I wanted to get to know you for myself. And yes, I kept my last name. I was carried away, not completely lost. I never felt the need to change my name like I was his property, even though he began to treat me as if I was."

"Why are you telling me all this?" asked Nicole. "By all accounts, you should be screaming at me or trying to run me off. It's what I would do if I met the woman sleeping with my husband."

"Oh, Nicole. You see, I like you. You've got a spark. And I don't like Frank so much any more, but divorce is too messy and too complicated. You keep him satisfied, and I don't have  to worry about him. Also, you are a huge improvement over his other mistresses. The intern, the secretary, the stripper who thought he would save her... " Catherine shuddered at the memories. "I know how he met you; I actually made sure it would happen. But he can't know that I know about you. If he finds out, he will end this affair and try to romance me and I just cannot bear the thought of that. So I will help you keep him as long as this is our little secret. Has he taken you to the apartment yet?"

"No, he hasn't," Nicole said.

"Oh, he will," Catherine replied. "I want you to live in it full time. Not with him, of course. I still need him to come home to keep up appearances in public. But you can have entertain him there all you want, and have the occasional sleepover. However, we have to make him think it's his idea. Your living situation is difficult right now, correct?"

"My roommate just moved out and I'm trying to find a new one, but how did you know?"

"I have many sources, Nicole. It takes a team to manage the secret life of Frank Anderson. He'll likely take you there soon. Don't ask if you can move in, but plant seeds. Tell him you're worried about losing your apartment, that you're struggling to make it, but refuse any money he will offer you. I predict within a month you'll be moved into the apartment permanently."

Nicole was quiet as they finished their meals and Catherine signed the bill. Catherine stood up to leave, then paused beside Nicole. "I know this is a lot to take in. But trust me, this is the perfect solution for both of us. Enjoy yourself, dear."

With that, Catherine walked out the door.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Jill & Sam, Part 2

Hi. I'm Sam.
I'm not exactly sure why I'm here. I just needed to see her, I guess. This past few years have been crazy. I'm in a band, and we were doing the normal thing, traveling around to bars and smaller venues, putting in our time, and developing a following. We dreamed of making it big but half the time that was all it was - a dream. Then one day we wake up and one of our songs was on YouTube and had gone viral - we were everywhere. I couldn't check Facebook without seeing our video a dozen times. All of us were covered up in "friend" requests, our families were getting them too. Crazy. Soon a legit record deal happened, and we've been going strong ever since then.

It was almost easier when we had the smaller shows. We could hang out with fans, just chill, and do normal things without being harassed. I remember this one time when we had just finished a gig in the city my parents live in - they moved there after I'd moved out, to take care of my grandma, so I didn't grow up there - anyway, we were starving and so sick of road food. These girls had been chilling out with us. Nothing was going on, don't think we were having some orgy or anything. We were wiped out from a string of shows and there were a bunch of people around. Anyway, one quiet girl suggested a local place, volunteered to show us where it was. So she and a few others rode along with us.

After that video, man, things were crazy. For a time I even dated a former Disney Channel star! That was surreal. It didn't last too long, I think she just wanted to dirty up her image. Not much dirt here, though, so she moved on.

More people started coming to our shows. Especially more girls. I felt bad that I couldn't give them all what they wanted and our manager wanted me to play up the "sex symbol" thing. Ha, yeah, laughing was my reaction to that. But he was serious. So I started mixing it up. If the girl was a brunette, I'd wink. Blonde, and I'd touch her arm. Redheads I'd prolong eye contact. That seemed to work and the girls ate it up.

A year ago I decided to put down roots. There wasn't much left in the town I'd grown up in, so I decided to buy a house close to my parents. Not so close I'm on their doorstep but I can get some of mom's meatloaf when I need it. It's weird, though. Even when I was there alone I was almost sure someone else was there. Things would be moved. My favorite shirt disappeared off my bed. I was almost convinced the house was haunted. But nothing happened whenever I had friends over so I decided I was just tired. It's strange, sometimes I'd dream I was sleeping with a girl in my arms and it felt so real. I never brought anyone to my house, though. Not until my girlfriend. We met at the grocery store of all places. Started talking and couldn't stop. We started going out, and eventually the press got wind so we went public. She'd go to events with me, we were photographed together often. I still felt weird, though, like I was being watched all the time. I never noticed anyone, though.

Until tonight. Sasha and I were out to dinner. I was proposing tonight. Had it all set up. But right as I was getting down on one knee, this tiny girl with brown hair ran up to us and grabbed Sasha. I'd never been so scared in my life. I'd rather sing naked on live TV in front of the UN than see that terror on Sasha's face again. This girl - she looked familiar but I have no idea who she is- kept yelling that she was saving me, that she loved me and was protecting me from the crazy stalker, pointing at Sasha. Thank goodness a waiter grabbed her from behind and the maitre d called 911. Turns out the waiter was a soldier helping out at the family business on a night when they were short staffed. I learned the girl's name was Jill.

Sasha wasn't hurt seriously. The paramedics checked her out and let me take her home. An officer took our statements. And the best part is she still said yes. I can't imagine if I'd lost her. I guess I'm here to talk to Jill, to find out why she did what she did. It turns out she was in my house. She followed me to the store and on dates. She had tickets for every show I've done within a hundred miles of here. It also turns out she was that quiet girl who'd told us about the diner way back when. I hope if I talk to her once, she'll get some help. The girl has problems.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Jill & Sam, Part 1


I first met my boyfriend Sam three years ago, backstage at one of his concerts. My roommate Jen had an extra ticket and backstage pass to his show since her friend had cancelled at the last minute. The show was amazing, and once we were backstage it was practically love at first sight. There was an instant connection. I even felt the romance-novel spark when he took my program to sign and our fingers touched. He asked my name, and told me it was beautiful, like me. We talked for a bit, hanging out with his band. Finally Jen had to leave. Sam gave me a look and a wink. I told Jen I'd find another way home. The guys were talking about food, where to go eat. It was late and they were starving after the show. We had dinner together at the only all-night diner in town.

After that, I'd go visit Sam whenever I could. If he was performing within driving distance, I was there. We had to keep our relationship secret, though. He didn't want me to be exposed to the paparazzi and be harassed. His studio even made him carry out a fake relationship in the media to throw them off. I trusted him, though. I knew I was his only love. Every time I'd go to his show, I'd pretend to be just another fan and ask for an autograph. He'd sign while giving me a sexy wink. After we'd always go out. Dinner, dancing, whatever.

Not being able to tell my friends and family was hard. Finally I broke down and told my sister Shayla but I don't think she believed me. But really, who would have thought that I, Jilly Malone, would be dating a rock star?

Finally, after almost two years, Sam bought a house in my city. I was so excited. Finally, we could have more time together! I had a key, and the alarm code. I'd check on his house when he was out of town and if I was really feeling lonely I'd sleep in his bed in my favorite shirt he'd given me. Sometimes when he was home and we hand't seen each other in a while I'd sneak in just to surprise him. Although if he was sleeping I didn't have the heart to wake him. He needed his rest, he worked so hard. So I'd crawl in bed next to him. I'm an early riser anyway, so I didn't need to worry about an alarm waking him up. I'd be up and off to work hours before he'd wake up.

It was so nice when he was home from touring. We'd go to dinner, see a movie, shop, or just hang out at his house. I also loved to send him cute little love letters, to let him know I was thinking about him. It's the little things, you know, that keep a relationship going.

Then, someone started stalking him. She was always there, at all his concerts and appearances. No matter where he went, she was close by. She'd harass him at the grocery store. We'd go to the movies and she'd be there, in the same theater. She even followed us to visit his family! I knew I had to do something. The police never listened. So I decided to talk to her myself, to try to make her understand that she couldn't interfere in our relationship, to help her realize that he was in love with me, not her. But something went wrong, very wrong.

To be continued

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What does sunshine taste like?

Prompt found here

Ice cold lemonade on a hot day
Salty sweat
Cool, creamy ice cream
Food fresh from the grill
Sweet, juicy strawberries
Plump blueberries, dark blue and about to burst
Blackberries, still warm from the vine
Dust swirling everywhere, coating your tongue
Faintly plastic water from the hose
Watermelon practically dissolving in your mouth
Icees in every fruit flavor imaginable
Barbecue and cole slaw

Thursday, December 8, 2016


The guys were unusually well behaved this evening. I walked out of the bedroom, dressed and ready to go, and the place was quiet. No video games blasting, no brotherly arguing, no wrestling around, nothing. It was weird.

"Knox? Nash?" I called out, wandering around the house.
"In here, Sweets," Knox answered. I found them in Nash's room, looking a little too casual and not-up-to-anything to really be not up to anything. I'm not really dating twins, it just feels like it. Knox and I have been together for a few years now and living together for almost a year. Nash moved into our spare bedroom a while back after his brief mistake of a marriage ended. They're a package deal, anyway.

"What are you guys up to?" I asked. Nash's ears turned pink, a dead giveaway that they were hiding something. Knox gave him one of their Telepathy Twins looks and grabbed my hand, effectively pulling me out of the room.

"Nothing, Sweets, just work stuff. Are you ready? Let me grab my jacket and we'll go." Something was definitely up. "We have to get going if we're going to make our reservation."

"Bye, Nash. Don't have any wild parties while we're out," I said as we went out the door. Knox rolled his eyes at me. Nash was the calm, quieter twin. Knox wasn't exactly wild, but he was definitely more outgoing.

At the restaurant Knox couldn't stop fidgeting. He placed his napkin in his lap, then to the side, then back in his lap. His fork and knife were moved countless times. I finally had to grab his hand to stop his fingers from tapping against his water glass. "What is going on, Knox?" He straightened himself in his chair and clasped his hands together. "Nothing, Sweets. Everything is perfect." Just then our waiter appeared to take our orders.

After we ordered our meals, I took Knox's hand again. "Babe, something is going on. First you and Nash were acting strange at home, and now you're all fidgety and jumpy. It's not like you. Is something wrong? Are you sick?" All of a sudden I had an awful feeling in my stomach. "Oh god, do you have cancer? It's cancer, isn't it?"

Knox started laughing and shushed me. "No, Sweets, it's not cancer! Everyone at the surrounding tables will think it is now, though." I smacked his arm.
"Not funny, Knox! But something is seriously going on and you not telling me is freaking me out!"

He laced his fingers together behind his head and sat back in his chair. Now he was enjoying my discomfort. Asshole. I was reassured by this, though. He wouldn't do that if something was seriously wrong. I can play that game, though. I just won't react any more at all.

"Fine, you win. Nothing is wrong, everything is perfect, you don't have cancer, pass the pepper. No, really, pass the pepper please. It's on your side of the table." We ate our dinner, talking about our jobs, mutual friends, Nash and his latest dating disaster, and everything else that wasn't what was obviously on his mind. Soon the waiter came to clear our plates.

"Will you be having dessert tonight? We have some fantastic choices tonight."

As I was declining, Knox interrupted. "We'd love to hear the dessert options, thank you." I gave him a look but he ignored me, keeping his attention on the waiter.

The waiter handed me a dessert menu. "We have tiramisu, chocolate cheesecake, creme brulee, and a lovely strawberry sorbet with a fresh mint syrup swirl," he said.

"Or me," said Knox.

Startled, I looked over at him to see he'd gotten out of his chair and knelt next to me while I was looking at the menu. He held the most beautiful ring I'd ever seen. My breath caught as I looked in his eyes. This explained the fidgeting, for sure.

"Annie. Sweets. I can't imagine not having you in my life. You're as necessary to me as breathing and I promise to love you and treasure you forever. Will you marry me?"

Somehow I was kneeling on the floor with him. I had no memory of how I'd gotten there but I was. I threw my arms around his neck. "Of course I will, you idiot. I love you too!"

Friday, October 7, 2016

Flashback Friday

I originally wrote this several years ago for Skirt! Magazine's website. Eventually I'll do something more with this.

I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink as I walked into the courtroom to present my case.   My client was accused of murder, but I just knew she was innocent.  Trouble was, she didn’t have a strong alibi.  Well, that’s why I make the big bucks, right?  I wish.  My name is Ellinor, and I work as a public defender.  
I put my briefcase on the security belt for scanning, and did a quick makeup and clothes check.  Lipstick on, mascara not smeared, all buttons fastened.  Good to go. I walked into the courtroom and sat down at the defense table.  I spotted an amazingly good looking man watching me.  I flashed him my best smile, and was trying to figure out a reason to talk to him when I realized he was sitting at the prosecutor’s table.  Damn.  The best ones are always on the dark side. 
The bailiff announced the judge, and we all rose and sat on cue.  Cute guy got up to start his case.  I was taking notes, finding counterpoints to his arguments.  Then he turned and winked at me.  What’s up with that?  I think he is just trying to distract me.  If I wasn’t so concerned about my client’s POSSIBLE LIFE SENTENCE here, it just might work.  What he didn’t know is that I had a trick up my sleeve – I had found evidence proving my client’s innocence.  Nothing could distract me today! 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Mixed-up Ballerina

Saturday morning, 6 a.m. My alarm is blaring on my nightstand and I'd love to turn it off and sleep a few more hours. I'm too excited, though, because it's a big day today. I'm finally fulfilling my childhood dream. Today is my first ballet class!

At 20, I'm definitely older than most beginners, even if I'm still short as a child. My sister says I'm adorably petite, but she's as small so she's biased. I saw a flyer at the gym earlier this week advertising an adult beginner class at Ballet Academy. I was so excited. I typed the number in my phone and called on my way home to enroll. After getting directions to the facility, I went shopping for all the essentials - leotards, tights, ballet shoes, and of course a cute bag for carrying everything.

I turn off my alarm and jump in the shower. The class begins at 8 and I want to leave early to make sure I find it. I'm not familiar with the part of town where it's located. I am too excited to eat, but force down a banana and a yogurt. I'll need my strength for sure. Finally, I get dressed, twist my long blonde hair into a "ballerina bun" and head out, dance bag in hand.

I'm glad I left early, as there was an accident on the highway causing a bad traffic jam. I arrive at 7:56 and run inside the building, not even looking at the outside. I stop at the front desk. "I'm here for the adult beginner class." The receptionist confirms my name and takes my payment, and tells me the instructor was caught up in the traffic also so class hasn't yet started. "Is there somewhere I can change into my leotard?" I ask, at the same time she's asking me if I have my own handgun or if I need to rent one. We both look at each other, shocked.

"Leotard?" she asks.
"Handgun?" I squeak out. "I'm here for the adult beginner ballet class. I saw a flyer at the gym." She hold up a familiar light blue paper.
"This flyer?" I nod my head yes ."This is for our adult beginner shooting class, dear. This is a Bullet Academy franchise shooting range."

I couldn't believe it. My dream is crushed, because I misread the flyer. I was so excited that I didn't read the entire thing. Looking at it now it's clearly for shooting. There's even a line about handgun rentals. Mortified and crushed, I give the flyer back and ask about a refund. When I get back to my car, I pull out my phone and do what I should have done a long time ago. I look up local dance studios and start calling, asking each about classes for adults. I'm going to make this happen.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Box

Image courtesy of nuttakit at
"It's time," she thought to herself. The suitcase had been sitting in the corner for weeks now. With a sudden determination, she hefted it onto their bed.

At first the small luggage padlock thwarted her, until she realized she had a key to the lock in her vanity drawer. Retrieving the key, she raised the lid. She didn't realize his scent would still be present. The sudden rush of memories and emotion nearly knocked her over. Holding onto the tall post of the bed, she spotted the side chair in the corner. He had always left his ties draped over the back of the chair. She teased him about it, and eventually he would put them away. Now, there were no ties. She pulled the chair up to the bedside and sat down to begin unpacking.

She lifted out a stack of shirts and gently laid them on the bedspread. Next was the socks and underwear, rolled tightly and tucked in the middle. Then she started to lift the stack of pants, when she felt something unusual. A small red box was hidden between the layers. At first she thought it was one last gift for her, but it was months until Christmas, her birthday had already passed, and their anniversary was three months ago.  Then she realized that he couldn't have been bringing it home to her, since he never reached his destination. It couldn't be a forgotten gift from another trip, as it was too carefully hidden between his clothes. Was he taking it to someone else?

She pulled the lid off the box cautiously. Inside was a smaller hinged box, the kind you get a ring or earrings in from the jeweler. The box was navy blue, and there were no markings on the outside to indicate where it came from. She paused. Did she really want to see what was inside? Why was her husband taking jewelry with him on his business trip? Was he having an affair with a coworker? Finally she raised the lid.

Instead of answers, she had even more questions now and no way to get answers. The box was empty.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Larry, part 1

(Today's prompt found here)

There were 17 cats living in Larry’s basement. When we arrived at his house for dinner, I was not expecting that. One or two wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. But 17? That’s the kind of thing that gets you on those can’t-look-away shows on TLC or something. At least they were in the basement, and not upstairs in the main living area. 

As we were passing dishes at the table and filing our plates, someone in the group, I didn’t remember her name, asked Larry about his feline companions. “Well, it’s a funny story,” he began. “I started out fostering shelter cats a few years ago, keeping them off of a literal death row until they could be placed in permanent homes. The cute, cuddly ones always go pretty easily. People have this idea of what they want in a cat, the typical cute small animal that snuggles on your lap and bats at feathers and meows at appropriate times.” The girl who had asked, Angela? Amanda?, was nodding. Apparently she was one of the cute-cat owners. “But I realized that some of the cats who weren’t as cute were getting left behind,” Larry continued. “They were the ones at the shelter in danger of euthanasia simply because they had been there the longest. Or they had the normal behavior issues that come with adjusting to a new home but their new owners didn’t give them the chances the cutesy cats were given. One “mistake” and they were back at the shelter. Being returned put them on the fast track to getting put down.” Antonia, that was her name I finally remembered, was nearly in tears. Larry went on. “I started taking the “less-than” cats on purpose, to give them more of a chance. Now all 17 have some kind of perceived flaw. I look for special people to adopt these special cats.”
The whole time he was talking, I couldn’t help but think about one thing, though. I finally had to ask. “Aren’t there laws that limit how many animals you can have in a residence though? How do you get around that?” A couple people chuckled and I also heard some murmurs of agreement. Antonia shot me a death glare. 

“I had to get a permit from the city,” Larry explained. “I also invited them to come inspect the basement and see where the cats would be living. They were quite impressed, if I do say so myself.”

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Polly, part 3

She gripped the rim of the porcelain sink and tried to steady her hands. "One last time," she whispered to herself. "One. Last. Time."

Polly finished washing her hands and dried them off. The restroom door opened and her lawyer, Ms Pennington, poked her head inside.

"It's time, Polly."

Taking a deep breath, Polly steeled her nerves. "I'm ready. Let's do this." The day she had both dreaded and looked forward to had finally arrived. Her husband's court date, where she would testify against him. The final step in breaking free.

After they were seated in the courtroom, her husband was brought in. Her heart lurched at the sight of him. He was in handcuffs, but wearing a suit. He had pasted a sad, remorseful expression on his face. Polly was terrified that despite the accounts from their neighbor and the police who responded, she wouldn't be believed. Ms Pennington noticed the look on Polly's face and squeezed her hand.

"Stop worrying. We've got this. He can't hurt you any more."

Thursday, July 14, 2016


"She smelled amazing, like cinnamon. Man, I wish I'd remembered I was allergic to cinnamon. Might have been a warning sign to me."

"What happened?" I asked.

"Same old story. Boy meets girl and falls in love. She was amazing. Tall, long dark hair, big eyes, killer laugh. Loved to dance. I'd play and she'd dance."

"Did you play publicly?" I asked.

"Nah, that was just my hobby. I'd play at home. Not even many of my friends knew I could do it. I dreamed of being a rock star, playing on stage. I know I couldn't handle it, though. I was a suit. I worked 8-6 or longer Monday through Friday, in my big corner office buying and selling. I made a buttload of money and spent it freely on Lila. We moved in together after dating for six months. I bought a house and a ring. Held on to the ring for a long time, though. I was planning on proposing on our anniversary. That never happened."

"Why not?" Now I was curious.

"Turns out she wasn't who she said she was. Corporate spy, of all things. She was using me to get insider information for her real employer, a competitor of my company. I came home from work one Friday and she was just gone. Her clothes and things, too. But she left behind almost everything I'd bought for her. Her key was on the dinner table with a note saying sorry. On Monday I went into work and walked into a shitstorm. Half the employees were let go, me included. She'd done her job too well."

"What happened then?" I asked.

"I sold the house. Sold the ring I'd been carrying around and used it to buy a new guitar. Of course I couldn't give up on my old one, though. I use the new one for performing. I sold almost everything, actually. I didn't need all that, just bought it for her. Put nearly every penny in the bank and started traveling, playing wherever would let me. And honestly? I'm much happier now."

"Did you ever hear from Lila again?"

"Yes, once. After about a year she came into a bar where I was playing with some friends. When I took a break she came up to me and wanted to talk. I didn't want to talk to her, though. It still hurt too much. She said she was sorry and that she wished she hadn't hurt me, it was just business. I think she was doing the same thing again, though. She seemed out of place with the friends. Something didn't fit. Not my problem, though. No more attachment for me."

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


"Jill, we have a crisis!" I hear Annie, my assistant editor, call out from her office next to mine.

"We can't have a crisis. My schedule is already too full," I yell back to her. She walks into my office as I continue. "It's 10 am. I have meetings at noon, 1:30, and 4. Abbie has karate practice at 5:30 and Ben has dance class at 6. Paul is out of town until tomorrow and Nancy is sick." Paul is my husband and Nancy is his mother. She helps out with the kids' schedules whenever she can, but she has the flu and there is no way she can feed and chauffeur our 9 and 7 year old kids to their various activities. Not today.

"Well the Andersons called, and they don't like something Chad said in their last meeting and want to pull all their ads for the rest of the year."

Shit. She was right. That is a crisis. Harry and Marlowe Anderson own several businesses in the area, and are the largest advertisers by far in our regional magazine. Losing their ad business basically equates to losing the salary of one of our employees. "Okay. First, have Chad in my office in five minutes. Second, have Janie try to reschedule one of my meetings. If she can't, I will need you to cover for me at one of them. Or more. This might actually take a visit to them, not a phone call. We absolutely cannot afford to lose their business."

Twelve hours later, with the offence worked out with the Andersons, Chad severely reamed and on probation, and the other clients handled and ruffled feathers smoothed, I called Paul for our nightly chat.

"Hey, Babe, how was your day?" His face filled the screen of my iPad. I couldn't help but smile at him. I could tell he was with other people, though.

"I had the worst day," I began. I wanted nothing more than to simply talk to my husband about my rotten day. After getting the work crisis taken care of, I was late leaving work which meant I was late picking up the kids, who were each late for their activities. The day ended with a hungry, cranky, overtired mutiny. After a late dinner of takeout pizza they went straight to bed. I was having a hard time talking to Paul, though, since he kept getting interrupted by others in his group, or he'd interrupt me to add a comment to whatever conversation was going on around him. I found myself growing more frustrated.

Finally I just couldn't take any more. "Listen, Paul. I'm exhausted and you're busy. I'll see you when you get home tomorrow night and we can catch up then." He distractedly said goodbye and we ended our call.

I got ready for bed, but couldn't go to sleep easily. My mind just wouldn't stop replaying all of the headaches of the day. I was already feeling out of sorts and the disjointed call with Paul didn't help any. I felt like such an afterthought in my own life. At work I was the boss,which made me the fixer of problems. I didn't have many opportunities to find the joy in my work like in the past. At home, I was "mom" - I kept the schedules, made sure everyone was fed and clothed, and kept the house clean. But who was taking care of me anymore? Who was I supposed to go to when I needed to talk, when I needed support? I knew I wasn't sleeping for a long time anyway so I brought up a book on my iPad and started reading. That always helped distract my mind so I could fall asleep.

About an hour later my phone vibrated. I picked it up and had a text from Paul. I'm sorry things were so crazy here tonight. I want nothing more than to be home with you to help you unwind after today. I'm sure you're asleep and won't see this until morning, but know I love you and can't wait to see you again. You're a kick-ass wife, mom, and editor. I am in awe of you.

And just like that, all my doubt and tension vanished. There is my support. I put my iPad away and settled into bed. Tomorrow would be a better day.

Friday, July 8, 2016


She showed up at my door soaking wet, bruised, and covered in glitter. I of course burst out laughing. As she stood there, dripping and sparkling in the porch light, glaring at me, I finally composed myself enough to ask what had happened.

"What do you think, genius? I broke into a snow globe factory. No, I was attacked by a Twilight vampire. Or maybe I was assaulted by drag queens." She pushed past meand stomped down the hall to the bathroom. "Please tell me you've done laundry and have some clean towels. And I know I left some clothes here last week."

"Augusta..." I begin, when she turns around and gives me that cold glare again.

"Do not call me that, Aldous!" She turns back to her task of digging in my hall closet. If she'd asked, I would have told her that of course I'd done laundry (I was the tidy twin, after all) and there was a stack of fresh towels in the bathroom. I decided to make her work for it, though.

"So, Aggie, are you going to tell me what happened? Did you piss off Tinkerbell or something?" I finally took pity on her and pointed her to the bathroom. As she dried off I opened the drawer I'd learned long ago to keep for her belongings and took out a change of clothes for her. She is as chaotic and disorganized as I am organized and neat. Or anal and stodgy, she calls me. We were twins, and similar in looks and build, but very different in our personalities.

She thanked me as I handed her the clean clothes. "Actually, pissing off Tinkerbell is a pretty accurate description," she said with a wry smile. "Piper had two friends over to play today, Fallon and Finley. Also twins, but not fun ones like us. Identical little seven year old devils. Tiny blonde, yet deceptively strong, little demons. The girls wanted to go to the pool but Piper's mom had said no, so I wouldn't take them. I caught the little darlings filling up the parents' huge bathtub with water. The faucets weren't doing the job quickly enough, so they also brought the garden hose in through the bathroom window. Water was of course everywhere, and I slipped and fell as I was trying to get them all to turn off the water. I don't even know where the glitter came from. One of them made a glitter bomb, I'm sure of it."

I couldn't help laughing at the thought of a wet, glittery Aggie chasing three little girls around. "What did the parents say?" Aggie works as Piper's nanny and I was concerned about her job at this point.

"Oh, they did what they usually do. Laughed at how precocious little Piper and the evil twins are, and called their maid to come clean up. I wanted to stay to help her clean since she was the last person who should be doing it, but Mr and Mrs Pollifax were having guests over and strongly hinted I should make myself scarce before I dripped water or glitter in the rest of the house. Since getting to my quarters would mean going through the rest of the house I just came here."

"Well, thanks for that, since you've been more entertaining than anything else I was going to do tonight." My sister seemed to attract the more interesting types of people. But whenever I said that to her, she'd just roll her eyes at me and say "Hudson, crazy loves me. I don't know why but maybe it's in the genetics." And yes, I go by my middle name of Hudson. Augusta Hazel and Aldous Hudson, those are our names. And no, our parents insist they don't hate us. We've asked. Old family names or something like that, although I suspect mom and dad were chemically impaired while naming us. Of course they'll never tell.

"So what are you doing tonight, then? Want to go out? We haven't been to Jonzey's in a while, or we could go to a dance club." Jonzey's is the neighborhood pub. Good food, good people, and close enough to walk home if we drink too much. Which seemed to happen when we drank together. Sibling competition I am sure.

"Fine, let's go out. I have class in the morning, though, so no drinking. Lets just go dancing. Want to call up Billie or Margot?" Billie and Margot are two of her friends from uni that live near me.

"Nah, we'll stay out too late if they go too. I have to work tomorrow too, you know," Aggie said, sticking her tongue out at me.

"So mature, Aggs. Are you sure you're the nanny and not Piper?" I laughed as she flipped me off as she walked out the door. I locked it behind us and we started off down the street.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Polly, part 2

She wasn't supposed to be here. She was supposed to be happily married still. She never expected to
wake up one day and realize her husband was not who she had thought he was. They had been happy, back when they were dating, after she'd finished college. They were both 27 when they married. A year later they'd saved enough to put a nice down payment on their dream house. Both of them had good jobs; he was an engineer and she was a graphic artist. At 30, they'd agreed it was time to start a family and that's when things started changing. He pressured her into giving up her job, since they were planning for her to stay home with their baby for the first several years. She couldn't even pinpoint a specific time when he became abusive. He was too subtle for that. When a baby never came, he began to verbally attack her. Never physically, though, and she always brushed it off. Stress from work. Financial pressure. A bad day at the office. The anxiety of trying to conceive. She always shouldered at least part of the blame.

But then, it happened. She still isn't sure what set him off. She woke up and he was acting strangely. He kept asking her questions, almost like he was interrogating her for some reason but she couldn't think of anything she'd done wrong. As her confusion grew, so did his anger. Before she knew it, she was flying up against the dining room wall. A picture frame broke and cut her arm, badly enough for her to need stitches later. She could feel her eye swelling. He started kicking her in the ribs, yelling incoherently. She couldn't remember but she apparently was screaming. Thankfully a neighbor heard and called 911. Police arrived while he was still beating her, and they pulled him off of her and called for an ambulance.

She'd never forget the look on his face when he realized what he'd done to her, and how much trouble he was in. He started begging for her to forgive him, telling her he loved her and he didn't mean to hurt her. As he was yelling from the back of the police car and officer was asking if she wanted to press charges. She looked into the eyes of the stranger who had once been the most important person in her world, and without hesitation answered. "Yes, I would like to press charges. And also get a restraining order." The officer turned her over to the paramedics, who transported her to the hospital.

Shaking her head as if to clear out the memory of that morning, Polly cleaned up her dinner dishes and went to run a hot bath. She couldn't remember the last time she'd taken the time to relax in the tub. As the water filled the bathtub, she looked in the drawers at what toiletries she had available. She could always use some body wash or shampoo for bubbles. Just then, she noticed a small purple bottle in the back of the drawer. It was a bottle of her favorite lavender bubble bath, a very difficult to find brand. Her grandmother had first bought it for her when she was a preteen and it was always her special go-to relaxation method for most of her life. Such a small thing to find, but the joy she felt in finding one of her old comfort items brought her to tears. It felt like a blessing from her grandmother, that she was doing the right thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Polly carefully placed the cardboard box on the small table. "So this is it. This is home for the next however long." She looked around the small boxy apartment. The front door opened into a small hallway with a kitchenette on the left and a living room on the right. At the end of the hall was a bedroom and a bathroom. One small, plain square. A tiny two-person table was in the kitchen for dining. The decor wasn't fancy, but at least the apartment was clean.

Miss Cora showed her around. "There are some basics in the cupboards and I left a casserole in the fridge. Just heat it in the oven for half an hour or so and you'll have dinner tonight." Polly followed the older woman down the hall. "There are towels and a change of sheets in the hall closet. There are a few toiletries in the bathroom, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, and the like. I wasn't sure what you'd need. Anything you don't want just set aside and I'll save it for another woman." Entering the bedroom, Polly was taken aback by the cheerfulness of the room, although she noticed the lack of window. The bed was made up with a sunny yellow comforter and there was a big vase of flowers on the dresser. Miss Cora was still talking. "No windows in any of the bedrooms, I asked my Joe to cover them up years ago. Made the women feel safer, and they can sleep better at night. Nothing to make them feel like someone could be watching them." As she heard the words, Polly realized that is what she had been feeling the past few nights. She couldn't relax enough to get a good night's sleep because she was afraid someone could be at the window. Watching, waiting. Planning.

"I'll leave you to settle in now. Anything you need, just let me know. All the phones in the building are programmed. There are two speed dial buttons. The red one is 911. The green one calls the shelter line. Not the official one, the one just for residents. One of us will be happy to help you." Cora gave  Polly a smile and a reassuring pat on the shoulder and let herself out. Polly sat on the nondescript couch in the living room. She had a small television set, and end table with the phone, and a side chair. A few magazines graced the coffee table and a floral print hung on the wall. The curtains were opened a little and she noticed the glass had an odd look to it. Smiling, she remembered Miss Cora saying something about a privacy coating on the windows. She could see out, but no one outside could see inside. Even though she was two floors above the ground level, that helped her feel more secure.

It was nearly dinner time, so Polly put the casserole in the oven and found dishes in the cabinets. She filled a glass with water from the sink and set it on the table along with a prescription bottle from the hospital emergency room. It was almost time for another pain pill, also, and her antibiotic. She slowly unpacked the meager contents of her box. She hoped she had everything. It broke her heart to leave so many of her possessions, but that's all they were. Possessions. She could replace most everything eventually. She did manage to take her grandmother's rings. As she entered the bathroom to put away the few items she'd grabbed hastily off the counter at home, she was startled to see her reflection in the mirror. Her blond hair was in a stringy ponytail. Her face was makeup free and ashy, with a large purple bruise on one cheek and under her eye. She carried herself carefully, favoring the taped ribs. Luckily she no longer needed the sling for her arm.

Finally, the casserole was done. She removed it from the oven and served herself some on a plate. It smelled delicious and she was not surprised that Miss Cora could cook so well also. From the time she met the older woman in the ER Polly was in awe of her. She was thankful the social worker that was on duty happened to be one who worked with Miss Cora's underground network to help abused women escape their partners. One week ago, Polly would have laughed at the idea of her husband becoming violent and hurting her so badly. Looking back now, though, after talking with Miss Cora, another counselor, and a couple other women there, she could see the warning signs over the years. But for tonight, she was going to eat a good meal, get a good night's sleep, and in the morning go downstairs to the shelter. All the women could stay in the apartments rent free for as long as they needed, but in return they helped out in the running of the place. Tomorrow she'd be assigned a job to do and meet other survivors.

For the first time in a long time, Polly was looking forward to tomorrow.